How to... wash your vintage dresses

How to... wash your vintage dresses

There can be a huge amount of fear when it comes to washing your vintage dresses. If there are care labels, are they still even applicable 40 years later? While you may be willing to risk some of Penny’s Finest, there’s no replacing some of those vintage gems. Below are 5 ways to approach cleaning your vintage threads varying in both effort and cost.

1. Hang outside

This is not a method that I’ve admitted to previously but it surprisingly effective and effortless. When your dress is rolled up in a ball in the dark of your laundry basket, things are only going to ferment. Folks tend to roll in from a few drinks and fling their dresses over a chair. Whenever you get up, put the dress on a hanger and outside with the sun and breeze. Putting your clothes in the sun, kills off the usual smell causing germs. This route can be repeated once or twice before you would want to check out some of the more thorough options below.

2. Spot wash

It’s exactly what it says on the tin. There’s no point in going to enormous lengths if there’s just speckles of gin and tonic and garlic cheese chips down the front.

3. Hand wash with a little bit of vinegar and detergent

This method is labour intensive but obviously much safer than machine washing. Like sunlight, vinegar kills off the smell causing bacteria but a little bit of detergent can help with that fresh smell. Only use a half a teaspoon of detergent though! If not washed out correctly, too much leaves a powdery residue and stiffness in the garments. Hang it to drip dry and it’s ready for another day out.

4. Gentle wash in the washing machine with a pillow case

A lot vintage garments will have delicate zips, hook and eyes, and embellishments. I put dresses in pillowcases to protect them from the interior of the washing machine and from other garments. The washing machine is always going to be a bit of a gamble however many dry-clean-only items have survived the journey under my watch.

5. Dry cleaners

This is the safest, most effective and most expensive option. While it can be a pain squeezing in a drop-off and pickup, there’s no comparison to getting your dress back fresh and pressed. A lot of dry cleaners will have a loyalty programme so make sure you’re getting your points for the very first visit. 

Is there something I’ve missed? How do you wash your vintage dresses?

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